The Urge to Compete

Every morning for almost six years I woke up with a single purpose in mind – to make Edmonton remarkable. We rallied the business community around opportunities to attract major events like Red Bull Crashed Ice or industry leaders like Aurora Cannabis and Hello Fresh. We also rallied the business community when our city was under threat from reckless cuts to post-secondary funding, vindictive elimination of direct flights, and policy changes that crippled our economy.

I loved the chase and I loved the fight. And my love for our city is forever in my heart.

Today, as we all witness the brutal combination of an energy price war, a COVID-19 economic collapse, and a global liquidity crisis, my urge to compete has never been greater. This recent threat to our economy and livelihood has exposed the fragility of our economy, our capital markets, our supply chains, and our manufacturing capacity. Although the response has largely been targeted at social distancing policies, income and wage supports, and PPE procurement, our national response will eventually start to focus on our points of fragility.

And we, as a city, need to be ready … ready to invest in transition.

As people are eventually allowed to return to work, the first wave of government stimulus will be on infrastructure and construction projects. This is predictable and Edmonton will benefit greatly from this first wave of stimulus spending.

It’s the second wave that is much more important and requires our city to think strategically, collaboratively, and well … differently.

As the federal government launches incentive programs to build manufacturing capacity for essential products, Edmonton should be ready to position itself as western Canada’s advanced manufacturing hub. Edmonton has an integral foundation of traditional manufacturing capacity, talent & trades, education & training institutions, and a competitive tax environment. Layer on our leadership in artificial intelligence, machine learning, nano-materials, and robotics … plus our jurisdictional advantage as the transportation, logistics, and service centre for western Canada’s primary industries … and what you have is a winning combination that cannot be ignored.

Our organization, BGE Indoor Air Quality Solutions, is western Canada’s largest manufacturer/distributor of air filtration products – essential products and services regardless of economic and pandemic conditions. However, we rely on imported raw materials and products that could be made locally, as part of an advanced supply chain and manufacturing cluster deemed critical to our economic future.

We are one of many manufacturers that should be rallying together at this time, to share our opportunities and needs, and collectively position Edmonton for that second wave of economic incentive – the one that builds essential manufacturing capacity, localized supply chains, and thousands of well-paying jobs for generations to come.

It’s time to rally.  It’s time to be remarkable.

Why Are We Waiting?

There’s a nervousness growing on the streets and in the conversations happening in our coffee shops across Alberta. There is concern and angst among people who are typically risk-takers, adventurers and entrepreneurs.

And it’s becoming infectious. And it’s becoming concerning.

Alberta has a long history of an unusual economy – filled with highs and lows, droughts and floods, journeys and discoveries. It’s been a land of opportunity between periods of hardship, and our culture of camaraderie and cooperation has prevailed when times were most tough. And we’ve always fought through it, together.

Optimism is a key virtue of living here, as is hard work. There is no room for entitlement, and pointing fingers and complaining leaves you sitting very alone. If something needs fixing, we fix it. If something needs doing, we do it. And if someone needs help, we help them. It’s pretty simple.

So why has developing a budget and a policy framework become so difficult?

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, our individuals, families, businesses, farmers and non-profits all need some help, some guidance, some direction in terms of what they can expect … such that they can plan and make decisions that positively affect their future.

Instead, we’re playing politics and waiting for a federal election before taking care of our own?

That’s certainly not the culture that’s made us successful. That’s certainly not how we build our province. And that’s certainly not any form of leadership.

People expect more. And when you can taste fear hovering in the air … people need action.

Let’s see some leadership and some action … please.